ABOVE: Poets Tim Loveday, Peter Mitchell and Gayelene Carbis.
The Kyogle Literary Allsorts event included a poetry competition.
First prize went to Peter Mitchell for Sacred Country, second to Tim Loveday for Mangoes & elephant bones and third prize went to Gayelene Carbis for The Field.
Highly commended poems were Teacher by Fran Graham, From Small Beginnings by Catherine Lee, Urban Birdsong by Kate Maxwell, Origin by Brid Morahan and Chlorine by Stephanie Powell.
Read the three winning poems below and find out more about each poet at Kyogle Readers and Writers website.
SACRED COUNTRY by Peter Mitchell
At a Goolmangar acreage on Wijabul/Wia-bul Country, a camphor-laurel
sun-faces. The sky’s lion speaks light day & night. Year-by-slow-year,
day-by-slow-day, growth rings seasonal stories about nearby trees – some
long-gone, some still present, all a community of devotion.
The owner, a carpenter, treads revolutions around the tree’s base.
Head bent in deference, his feet make maps on Country
& intuits camphora secrets: a chair, stool & archway are companions
& have waited eons to reach out & meet the gathered peoples.
He picks a ground-near branch as thick as three forearms
held together & as long as a cathedral spire. His fingers
circle the axe’s handle as questions of angle, curve, slice
& weight are considered. He slants the tool; it glints
the morning air. A deep cut reveals honey-rich hardwood.
Mystery guides this shaper’s fingers. A hand-plane back-pares
roughness; nails sing the hammer’s down-swing.
Timber glows in stacks on the work bench. Inside each length,
the grain beats & flows more than the tree has ever known.
This resonance laces new patterns, new stories to tell,
legends that bind earthly matters to those not of this world.
The wood-carver arranges a steam box: a cooking-pot with a coat-
hanger across the inside. These wires elevate the wood as the steam
of change bends the lengths to archway curves. Later the beams,
plinth & other pieces are blocked together as one deified piece.
In the church, the woodworker & others install the archway,
hammer in the final cogs. A bow of light, deities, devotees
& devils enter this building on Sacred Country.
All this gathered wood resonates with the great old stories
too – every action, every utterance a benediction.
Dust motes like half-remembered sins float the yellow air.
Also a passage of departure, the deities & devotees leave,
but fallen angels, even with wings folded tight,
cannot. For now, they’ll pray in silence.
Will recollecting this knowledge from their ancient
ways activate reverence on Sacred Country?
MANGOES & ELEPHANT BONES by Tim Loveday
How do we make elephants bones our origin? We pluck them from basements between late night projections when we linger on the outskirts of friendships for decades. These are our museums, our artifacts. Singing Toto at the top of our lungs, so loud you miss the plane out of Melbourne. This despite, our blessing. How an email stuff-up becomes a hell yeah. See baby, I’m rushing out the door to buy us slurpies – thinking, which leather couch would look better in our living room? Thinking, we’ll have to get rid of your double, or at least move it into the spare room. Thinking, how many candles is too many before we burn down the bedroom? Thinking, I couldn’t give a stuff who’s looking through our windows. Thinking, we’re tea-light-shadow-flickering – we’re the hotness of infrared. God, I’m loving a blister in its proximity to a memory. I want to light every candle until my thumbs bleed. Thinking, should I tell my dogs that you’re they’re new mumma? Thinking, Sydney would be different, this time – wouldn’t it? We’d have art hanging from our ceilings, gold vases for houseplants & velvet sheets for slick bodies. Our life: dinner parties so lush they’d call us living terrariums. See how we grow inside of one another, perpetually. Just two rubber duckies bruising on the dance floor – all black-clad like the locals, we’re smirking, tonight, through flash point – the fem-punk trio hurling, don’t call me a good girl. Like you, I’d be anything you want me to be. I’m slipping off this David Beckham bad cologne and manifesting a thousand film essays just to see you. See, how I’ve fallen for a lacklustre hotel room & and even an old housemate saying he’ll stab everybody, cause its kill or be killed. All these places, all these pieces – they’re our details. Our origins. Our late night museums, polished statues, our scriptures – no state line between us. Our memories, mutually domestic. On the street, I want to pin you against brick and suck the dry ice off your nipples, fresh as mango. Always, our home is right here, but a bed is never as convenient. Remember, how we cut those mangoes into pieces? Weren’t we homely? I want to hold that cut mango up – our golden lawn bowl, on the days before we knew – and see how its two halves make a whole. Make the shape of the moon in a space where stars didn’t fill.
THE FIELD by Gayelene Carbis
Once I stood in a field very far from the city and said –
Your will, not mine
as if I was a believer.
The sun beamed down with its strong, almost blinding light.
I felt it on my back, stroking me,
then enveloping me
like a blanket of dandelions and daisies so that I fell
to the ground, almost swooned
as if drunk or dazed, and into
a long deep sleep that lasted probably no more than a minute.
But when I woke, I’d let go,
I’d surrendered. I rose up
and knew I’d stopped fighting my fate. I was able to breathe,
all the tightness and tension had gone
as if someone had come and lifted it
from my shoulders, moved it through me to the grass and the ground,
through my feet, my fingers.
I walked back to the house
where we were staying, my family who’d brought me there
but who were somewhat like strangers.
I said nothing, of course, of what had happened
for my family are skeptical of anything that sounds close to
So I held the sense of peace
that had come over me
like a prayer, and returned to the city, resolved.